Friday, 30 September 2011

Story of a Quarryman - Joe Bonamassa

As the final day of September arrives, how good it feels to be wandering around without a coat or jacket. Once again the sky was blue and full of sunshine with a light south easterly breeze but still little by way of 'visible' migration especially at the cemetery and Radipole.

Portland also remained fairly quiet with Meadow Pipits, in far fewer number than of late predominated and the odd Blackcap, Wheatear for good measure. This Sparrowhawk did bring me back to life as it landed no more than a yard away from me, but didn't linger long enough for a shot.

Otherwise, it was more Raptors that brought the only avian interest as the resident juvenile Common Buzzard flew directly overhead,

followed by one of the parent birds.

Next came 2 Peregrines in quick succession both looking to have prey and heading for the nest site further along the coast. Not unexpectedly a couple of Kestrel also put in an appearance followed by a

Portland Oxpecker - it's a Carrion Crow really!

Real Oxpeckers
taken with a Box Brownie?
Red-billed Oxpecker, Zambia 1997?

Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Botswana 1997?

With the recently refurbished St George's Church, Easton featuring on the local regional television news last night, it seemed appropriate to stop of and take a shot or two.

Built in the mid 1700's and designed on the plans of Sir Christopher Wren's Saint Paul's Cathedral, the architect must have misjudged the dome which is certainly lacking in size, but nonetheless doesn't detract from this magnificent monolith.

Along with an abundance of interesting Tomb Stones

it is not only the house of (the) God (you believe in), if any

but also a monument

to the World Renowned Stone Masons and Quarrymen who are historically synonymous with the Isle of Portland.

Garden by Groundhogs
from the 1970 album 'Thank Christ For The Bomb' (Tony TS McPhee)
if you don't own this work - do yourself a favour!

My garden is all overgrown and the weeds are creeping up on my home,
Grass has grown over two foot high and the trees are blocking out the sky.
French windows won't open any more from the moss that's grown outside my door,
Hundred birds are nesting in the trees, looks like a wild-life sanctuary.

But I'm not going to cut a single blade of grass, my garden will look just like the distant past,
Before the days of agricultural land, before the time when pebbles turned to sand.
When I leave this house I'm going to stay, I'm forsaking my comforts to live another way,
Get my clothes from heaps, my food from bins, water from ponds and have tramps for my friends.

When that's the case I just get the local Dolly Birds in to get things tidied up!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Tunnel of Love - Dire Straits

The 'alert' arrived right at the wrong time for me early yesterday evening as dinner was on the table and the daylight fast disappearing. 2 Great White Egrets had landed briefly outside of the Radipole visitor's centre before taking to the wing and flying high to the north - another one lost!

The Radipole 'Sun Tunnel'
This was the scene close to the VC, along the cross-path Radipole, this morning with the sun just peeking above the buildings to the east. There was precious little to report from the cemetery except for the continuing sound of Robins, Wrens and Goldcrest while on the Reserve, except for the chosen 3 (Water Rail, Bearded Tit and Cetti's Warbler),

there was little more than this small 11 strong flock of Black-tailed Godwit.

At what is known as The Swannery, with the Westham Bridge Sluices in the back ground, this guy had just arrived with a bucket of grain to feed the Wildfowl.

The 'feeding frenzy' that followed was worth 10 minutes of anybodies time.

An early departure for Portland meant I had to 'PAY' a bus fare, but all that was on offer around the Top Fields, Culverwell and onwards to the Bird Observatory were a few Collared Dove, many Bees and Hoverflies on the Ivy Banks

and this delightful Peacock Butterfly.

I had received early warning of the arrival of Ron (Chunky) King (foreground) but in the event was unable to dodge him. Ron, now in his 78th year, has been 'bird watching' longer than most of us and is one of the most colourful characters in the game. Always a delight to encounter him, it was once again GREAT to be in your company Chunky! That was when the next alert was sounded

as a Short-eared Owl was spotted flying across the fields opposite the Obs. No need for a second call for any of us as we made for the road, and soon relocated it, albeit at quite some distance, perched on a fence post close to the Culverwell bushes.

Slightly luckier with previous SEO's this bird, from a couple of years ago, allowed a closer contact

before flying away as did today's.

Also at the Obs for their annual 'bird ringing' visit have been Martin Lanaway and his father who can hardly be disappointed with the visit as it was Martin who caught the Blyth's Reed Warbler on Tuesday, only the 5th ever on Portland.

High Water Spring Tide was at about 10 'o' clock this morning so it was time to make for Ferry Bridge to catch the first of the Ebb, but there too things were a little disappointing.

First to appear was this Rook,

followed by this sinister looking bunch who, judging by the sleek lines of their 'dug-out canoe', looked every bit like Special Forces - Shhhhhh!

Soon it was the turn of a 'skein' of 15 Dark-bellied Brent Geese to 'splash down' likely having just arrived from the Tundra?

There were also 21 Mediterranean Gulls and a single Little Egret, but it wasn't until the 'last knockings' of my stay that any Waders showed up in the shape of 6 Ringed Plover, 5 Dunlin and 8 Oystercatchers. Thankfully, I had some shopping to do which cheered things up no end - Manana!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Here Comes The Summer - The Undertones

Fresh out of bed, I had to rub my eyes, was that a 'clear blue sky'? A second take and sure enough "there ain't a cloud in sight" (Mr Blue Sky, ELO) but it was quite a different view looking north where the Ridgeway Hills where shrouded in low cloud/fog. A squadron of Canada Geese flew in as I arrived at Radipole having left the cemetery, so often referred to in these pages and shown by the treeline in the background of this image, full of birdsong. However, the warmth of the uninterrupted sun made it more a day for insects than birds as the first sighting fell to this

female Migrant Hawker dragonfly.

There are now good numbers of juvenile Moorhen on the reserve, and next to show was a rather unexpected

Painted Lady butterfly.

Gadwall, this a male, are resident here and with little else to report except for a steady trickle of migrating Swallows, signs of 'erupting' Bearded Tit and singles of Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Song Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker it was off to Portland.

First contender for the log here was this magnificent Convolvulus Hawk-moth

which, when held by the Warden, gives a better idea of dimension. The reed beds at Radipole, Lodmoor etc are now all but devoid of Acrocephalus Warblers but there are still a few stragglers passing through the Bill. At Culverwell 3 Reed Warblers were seen by some observers, while later

this Sedge Warbler was plucked from a mist net by visiting 'ringer' Martin.

Those in the know informed me that this tiny bird, about to leave for Africa,

should weigh somewhere in the region of 12 grammes, however this individual had prepared

particularly well clocking in at a massive 17.7 gm. Let's hope it does well en-route!

On the way home this Great Tit kindly posed for a shot, a common species probably taken a little for granted, but given such plumage and cocky personality worth much more than a mere glance!

An 'open' and

'shut' case for this Red Admiral butterfly,

and although Public Enemy Number 1 in the countryside the

Magpie is also worth a second look especially on such a day when the sun glances off its feathers.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thick As A Brick - Jethro Tull

To start on a 'high note', as predicted yesterday's unusual mystery plant was identifies by John Gifford as the highly poisonous shrub Solanum pyracanthum, more commonly known as Porcupine Tomato. Thanks for your efforts John!

Given the weather conditions and a self imposed restriction on birding hours today (you have to draw the line somewhere to get other things done) it was inevitable that a good bird would show up. It did!

Pea Soup (an old English expression for 'thick fog') didn't come into it when taking the same view as yesterday along the Backwater, you couldn't even see Weymouth let alone Portland. But, it's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good, so surely a rare bird would have been forced to land amidst all of this?

It was the same picture at Ferry Bridge and with 'spring tides' with us once again it was well worth watching the first couple of hours of the ebb in the hope something might drop in!

The water was pushed right up to the sea wall when I arrived, deciding to do a 'species count' and photograph as many of them as I could. Not surprisingly first on the scene was this semi-resident

Herring Gull in company with a few

Black-headed Gulls plus

3 Turnstones.

A look across the road into Portland Harbour drew a visual blank, with the band of brighter light, centre, being where the Isle of Portland was yesterday.

It is at such tides that the small patches of low-lying ground running along the inside of Chesil Beach fill with water, which remains as the water drops back, making a fine habitat for many species of bird. Mells (not a word I cn find in the dictionary) as they are referred to locally are always worth a look, and in doing so this morning came to realise just how much beautiful

pink Thrift is still in bloom.

A few Dunlin were the first Waders to arrive,

closely followed by equally few Ringed Plover

as 2 Little Egret flew along the line of the Beach.

Among the smaller birds, this Dunnock looked every bit as if is was still feeding young with others in attendance included Skylark, Linnet, 3 Stonechat, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, Starling, Wheatear, Swallow plus Meadow & Rock Pipit. More Gulls had now landed including

this adult and

a 'first winter' Mediterranean Gull,

along with this Sandwich Tern.

On my way back towards the bus, I came across this discarded plastic container left 'high & dry', between the pebbles and the dead Zostra (Eel) Grass, by the falling tide not unusual in this day an age of the perpetual 'Little Lout'.

However, on closer inspection it was teeming with life within forming something of a mini aquarium. Clicking on the image will magnify it, where both small Shrimp-like creatures and fish can be seen.

As for today's 'Rare Bird', it was a

Blyth's Reed Warbler, caught close to the Portland Bird Observatory. Continuing to be self disciplined I didn't go but have dug a picture out of the archive of one that I photographed while visiting Estonia last year. Finally, to complete the 'morning list' both Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull were seen as well as Cormorant, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and a Peregrine with prey.